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Polis signs executive order to encourage diversity among state employees

Aug 28, 2020 | News | 0 comments

//Gov. Jared Polis signed the executive order on Aug. 27. Photo from Facebook Live stream.

Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on Aug. 27 aimed at pruning the state government of systemic racism.

The order directs state agencies to create inclusive work environments that focus on both equity and diversity. Leading the push on this measure will be the Department of Personnel and Administration. The DPA handles logistics for the state government and includes human resources as one of its duties.

“In 2019 we amended our employee engagement survey to include questions on equity, diversity and inclusion,” said DPA’s Executive Director Kara Vietch during the press conference. “More than 16,000 employees responded, but only 50.7 saw leadership support of equity, diversity and inclusion. We can do better. We must do better.”

Colorado’s state government is the largest employer in the state, with roughly 30,000 employees on payroll.

Rather than being an outgrowth from the resurgent civil rights movement sweeping the country, the executive order itself is the result of an ongoing project started in 2019 to make the state government an employer of choice. Vietch said the agency ran both a survey of state employees and held interviews to determine areas where state government could improve. The order was originally going to be unveiled in March but was delayed due to Covid-19.

In his remarks prior to signing the bill, Polis said he hoped by making equity, diversity and inclusion a priority within state government it would function as a model for the private sector. Polis also identified five areas that the state government would focus on to foster improvement. 

First, DPA will create a universal policy that will apply to all state agencies that’s focused on creating equity, diversity and inclusion. Second, the order also makes implicit bias training mandatory for all state employees. Third. it creates a mechanism for oversight to foster accountability and also aims to make state services, building and information more accessible. One example of this focus on accessibility is ensuring that Colorado residents have access to state documents in multiple languages. Finally, the state will also review its hiring practices and identify where systemic racism is at play before changing its policies to remove it. 

“We need every state agency rowing in the same direction, not just my appointees, but our career members in the government as well,” Polis said.

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